Organizing Precarious Workers in the CIO Era: The International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America
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This paper examines the history of the International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America (IFAWA) in the Puget Sound and Alaska from its roots in the early 1930s until dissolution in 1952. Many fishermen were misclassified by cannery companies as independent entrepreneurs, denying them collective bargaining rights and access to social services. IFAWA made significant progress by challenging the precarious position of workers in the industry, and at its height the Seattle-based union represented more than 25,000 West Coast fishermen and cannery workers. In 1950, it became one of the eleven left-led unions purged from the CIO and subsequently collapsed due to anti-trust lawsuits that criminalized the ability of ‘independent’ fishermen to unionize. The essay is based on a rare set of records housed by the Labor Archives at the University of Washington.